Interview with Jo-Anne Carlson, Just Jo
by Sarah Powell
A woman of strength and true to herself, Jo-Anne Carlson, who recently became known as Just Jo, draws in her listeners with soulful rock and blues inspired by her life experiences. “People should be nice to me” she says jokingly – in a way, “or they might end up in one of my songs.” Jo-Anne shows her strength in the name Just Jo. “Just me,” she explains the name represents her and encourages other women to “just be yourself; don’t try to be a Barbie.”
When asked what drove her passion for music, she responded that “it has always been there”. When she was about seven or eight years old, she had a small piano with only three Cs. She laughed at the memory, “it had to drive the neighbors crazy” as she learned to play. Raised in Kingston, Jamaica, her family lived in a two-story home where the chiming sound of the small piano rang through the neighborhood. As she grew up, her passion for music grew as well. She took lessons in piano and classical voice as well as sang in choirs. She always wanted to learn the guitar. When she was laid off of work back in 2002, her husband bought her an acoustic guitar. He encouraged her to play now that she had the time to learn.
She shared that it is a great challenge to play the guitar and sing simultaneously. “The nerves get to you” playing on stage in front of people. Everyone is different in dealing with their nerves, “just picture everyone in their underwear” or whatever works, she said as she laughed. Being able to accept this challenge is actually how she landed the gig at Cheyenne Grille and Sports Bar. She went just to speak with the manager about the style of music that interested him. When she told the manager she had an acoustic act and sang blues and rock, he was interested and put her on the spot to show her talent. After playing, he liked her style and she got the job. The patrons really enjoy her sound. Check out Just Jo every Friday night in August at 9:00PM at the Cheyenne Grille and Sports Bar in Atlanta, Georgia.
Coming up on September 21st, Jo-Anne is looking forward to performing at the Mason Murer Art Gallery. The Mason Murer Art Gallery is presenting an exhibit with the “The Great Gatsby” theme. Jo-Anne is one of three or four acts creating the atmosphere for the scenes with soulful music.
What brought Jo-Anne from Jamaica all the way to Georgia – you wonder? Education. When she was seventeen years old, she left Jamaica to attend Ambassador University in Big Sandy, Texas where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. After graduation, she moved to Atlanta, Georgia for the convenience and necessity of public transportation. She also had someone to stay with as she waited for her work visa. Since then, she and her husband travel between Washington and Georgia, primarily for her husband’s family. In Georgia, she works as an executive assistant by day while enjoying her true passion for music by night.
Jo-Anne is an avid song writer. She’s written every song that she performs. Each song unfolds to provoke thought and enjoyment – from philosophical songs such as “Water” to love songs such as “On My Side” that tells a typical fairy tale that takes place in a grocery store.
When asked which song stands out and expresses her thoughts the most, she stated “Water” does just that. This song was inspired by a poem written by her husband. One day, she began writing a phrase and the rest just fell into place becoming an intriguing flow of lyrics. “Complementary opposites” that’s what “Water” is about; Jo-Anne explained as she began quoting the lyrics “I am water and air, fire and earth. I am nothing but something, I die and give birth”. Complementary opposites have been written about by philosophers. What it means to her is that it is “just another way of seeing the same thing.” Another perspective of the same situation. Jo-Anne continues with the lyrics “I am beauty and ugliness, darkness and light.” This suggests a person may be beautiful on the outside, but ugly on the inside; the reverse may also be true. “I am sorrow and happiness, blindness and sight,” which represents the times when people show happiness on the outside, but on the inside, they are feeling sorrow.
While Jo-Anne’s parents still live in Jamaica, Jo-Anne and her mother work together writing songs such as “Give Me Time” and “Be Yourself”. At times, her mother writes a part of the lyrics and asks Jo-Anne to put them to music. Jo-Anne “modernizes the words” and composes the music to make the song complete. Jo-Anne admitted that she is certain she shares a characteristic with her mom of not being able to sit still and always driven to try something new. Jo-Anne is all the time working on something new with her writing and composing music and even picking up a new instrument – the banjo may be next. With her passion in music expressed in song, we can look forward to joining her in new experiences and stories to which we can all relate.
A word from Jo-Anne to all her fans… “Keep loving music. Spread your mind; open your mind to try new things. Thanks for listening and your support.”
Jo-Anne lives the life that she encourages others to live.
Keep being you, Just Jo! Keep on rocking.